Lagos: Enforcing Traffic Laws Amid Obvious Challenges
LAGOS, Nigeria’s former capital and its biggest commercial city has always been described as a mini-Nigeria because of its location, population, commerce, and landmass. The daily hustle and bustle of the city is unimaginable.
There is chaotic human and vehicular movement in every part of the city, despite its appellation as the centre of excellence. Many Nigerians and foreigners also have different views about the city, basically because of the prevalence of traffic gridlocks.
It was in a move to tackle this traffic menace that the government of Lagos State, under the leadership of Mr. Babatunde Fashola, signed into law the Lagos State Road Traffic Bill 2012.
The law clearly spelt out what constituted traffic offences in the state, as well as the penalty for each offence.
According to the document, trailers, with the exemption of fuel tankers and long passenger trucks were prohibited from entering into or travelling within the metropolis from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. Violators risk impoundment of their vehicles and payment of N50, 000 fine or six months imprisonment. Another important provision of the law is the prohibition of eating, counting money, making phone calls and engaging in other dangerous activities while driving, prescribing a fine of N30, 000 for violators.
Other highlights included the ban on operations of commercial motorcycles and tricycles on major bridges, Ikorodu Road, Funsho Williams Avenue, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway and Lekki-Epe Expressway.
It also compelled commercial bus drivers and their conductors to wear identification tags, while property owners were also compelled to report cases of abandoned vehicles in their vicinity or risk punishment. Officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) were empowered to administer breathalyzers on drivers to detect their drunkenness level, while owners of commercial vehicles were compelled to obtain operating licenses from government.
Just like every law in the country, its implementations became a herculean task for the state government and its enforcement agencies. While residents, motorists and commuters in the city continued to flout the traffic laws with impunity, the enforcement agency personnel such as the LASTMA officials and policemen were consistently accused of extortion and dereliction of duty by motorists and other road users. Many motorcycles, cars and trucks were impounded by the state traffic personnel then. The state government also wielded the big stick against the identified corrupt traffic officials.
Despite all these, nothing changed much as the traffic snarls continued unabated in the city, especially during rush hours. By the time Governor Fashola left office last year, residents of the city were still groaning over persistent traffic gridlocks.
On assumption of office, Fashola’s successor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode assured residents of his government’s determination to enforce the state traffic law to the letter. In a bid to fulfill his promise, Ambode has established a mobile court that will try offenders.
With the commencement of the implementation recently, motorists, commuters and residents have expressed divergent views about it. While some have accused the state government and its agencies of not creating much awareness about the new development, others are skeptical of its successful implementation now, considering the lack of manpower for the enforcement agencies, the population and size of the state. The state government has, however, insisted that it has created enough awareness and is already implementing the law with the ongoing arrest and prosecution of offenders.